Stand me up at the gates of hell
My dad used to have this brown leather case full of cassettes. He played the hell out of them. Pink Floyd. Led Zeppelin. Cream and the Allman Brothers. He’d get his guitar out and strum along, no shirt, no shoes, Kool hanging out of his mouth, coffee sitting on his amp.
He’s inextricable from that music. He’s why I have guitars and a closet full of ’70s shirts.
I fell in love with those songs.
I was 9 years old when one of my favorite albums came out: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever. I’ve been listening to it every day since Tom died.
I keep going back to one song: I Won’t Back Down.
“Well, I won’t back down,” it starts.
“No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
“No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground”
Here’s what scares me: the world can win.
It can make us sick. The grass is growing, the gutters are clogged and the shower’s leaking water in the closet. Is that black mold? It’s definitely black mold.
Phone calls. Bald tires. Blood tests. My lawn mower blade’s not engaging. I cut through the wiring on my trailer.
All the while, our art crouches like a shelter dog in the backs of our minds. She’s wimpering, and the cuckoo clock’s a’ticking.
“I know what’s right
I got just one life”
For the past four years, I’ve spent every spare moment working on a book. And for the past two years, I’ve written a newsletter every week.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m stealing time from a terrible beast, peeling food scraps off its teeth. What the hell am I doing?
And then, someone like Petty dies, and I remember. I put his albums on, and I’m back on Corwin Road. It’s a Saturday morning in 1992, and I’m waking up to dad’s music before karate lessons. I’m drinking three cups of orange juice, eating powdered donuts and singing along. I sound like sh**, but I don’t care. I’ve got nothing but time, nothing but this song right here. And it’s getting inside me, making me feel more alive than I ever could without it.
Twenty-five years later, I’m trying to make my own kind of music. The world will steal my time if I let it. I’ll steal it back.
There is no glass-walled studio beside a waterfall in the woods. There’s right now. There are a thousand obligations, a thousand opportunities to stand my ground.
— Fredrick Marion
A former columnist and staff writer at the Palm Beach Post and Rocky Mount Telegram, Fredrick Marion now writes on napkins, blogs and sidewalks. He earned an English degree from Wright State University, and he’s hard at work on his first children’s novel with representation by The Bent Agency. He also writes a weekly email newsletter full of writing tips, which you can find at www.daytonlit.com. Sign up for his weekly emails.